The Mad Men of Bolga

Feature Article The Mad Men of Bolga
SEP 21, 2019 LISTEN

Over the weekend, I tried reading over a chapter I contributed in the book Drug Policies in Africa: What Works. My chapter was Drugs and the Youth: Ghana's Drug Policies in a Changing World. As I recall my own thoughts on the consequences of drugs, including mental ailments, thoughts of my childhood days in Bolgatanga and Zua-rungo and the norm with which people interacted with mentally challenged persons (madmen we called them) flashed my thoughts.

Yes, there was Sister Girl, who though mad, was usually seen dressed in high heels, reflecting the fashion of those days. She had literally no station and would be noticed almost everywhere in town.

Then was John Bosco. Stout and handsome looking man who had lost his senses to what I don't know. He will walk bare chested on the main commercial streets where the popular twins bar was. His popular place was in front of Mr. Afoko's hotel. Alas, it is reported he had raped a nurse who was returning home after closing from work late.

Babani Chanwa was rude and had a sharp tongue. She would yell insults at any one who called her by that name for the name was not one to be liked. It literally means the aunt of a cat. She however had a rival and one whom she feared. That one was called Achira shi. She was the opposite of Babani Chanwa. She was happy to sing and dance for a meal and also, beat up Babani if she was told to do so. They both resided around the Aninga Zanga park, close to the leprosy clinic.

Manyelho, seemed to be the only male around the area of the two stated above. He was nonviolent and lived at the Shell Filling station. His one eye, believed to be punctured by what I don’t know, did not deter him from being happy.

Then was Lebre, who was in the main market. He said so many things that were abstract - he alone could comprehend. For instance, he would claim that, if he gets angry, he would fold up the road from Bolga to Bawku like a mat so cars would not go through. One needs no other sign of mental ailments in him after hearing him speak. He was always in the main market. But hey, we can't forget about Amidu Koria. He would be found around GNTC at all times. He was violent and stoning children was his pass time.

Others were Budei Ingani who will show his penis at the request of any one. His name literally meant ‘open and let me see’ in hausa. Amina bola, Adam Wawa, Adompika ,Abokodazabra lived in those times. It is narrated of Adompika in an instance when thieves took him for a robbery. They managed to get him I to the targeted house whiles the victims were asleep at night. Realizing that the victims were asleep, he shouted loudly to his masters outside, enquiring whether he should pick up cooking pots, buckets or others. You can imagine what happened next.

I think those were good times but not exactly so with persons with mental health issues then.

I guess many can relate to similar narratives in your environs growing up. Modern interventions to salvage drug related mental health issues abound. Perhaps our government should consider more proactive rather than reactive measures to curb this rising menace in our communities.

The situation was not too different in Zua-rungo. I would come close to engaging to Analebna on every market day. She was a mentally unhealthy person who had been chained on the effort. She was originally married to the chief’s palace in Zuarungu. We were told in childhood that, she brewed pito for sale when she was sane. Many would not have pity on her for they recall she was disrespectful to the poor in her sane days. Analebna would usually drag herself on her butts for the chains made her unable to walk. On feature of this character is that, she would not beg bug confiscate from her victims whatever she wanted. It is on the heels of this attitude that, I will be assigned with a cane to ensure she does not pick up anything on the trade table of my grandmother. She had a very sharp tongue and would rain curses when one prevented her from picking up what she wanted.

Then was guy Jesus. Unlike Analebna whom we gre up to meet, Guy was brought from Accra or elsewhere. He spoke many southern languages and could communicate loudly to himself or others within the course of a day. He was not particulary violent but would frighten children. His father was belived to be a policeman who by virtue of numerous transfers, exosed his children including Asabka( Guy Jesus) to many dialects. My gransmother would part a gift or two at intervals. She would say they may be sent by the gods – I still do not know if